Secret plan to muster army of 500,000 in event of nuclear war Ireland was ready to help out UK
World War III
Published 31/12/2011 | 05:00
SECRET contingency plans for a World War Three said that more than half a million Irish people would be fit for military service.
Classified files disclose arguments by Ireland's intelligence services for a "friendly" pact with the UK in the event of a threatened nuclear holocaust.
The four-page document, from February 23, 1981, states Northern Ireland would be "essential" to Britain's security in such a global conflict but access to the rest of Ireland would "significantly enhance" its chances.
Stamped 'Secret' and titled 'The Strategic Importance of Ireland to the UK in Times of War', it was drawn up in preparation for a feared outbreak of atomic war between the Soviets and the western world.
Despite its official neutrality, the report warns that Ireland may not have been spared a nuclear strike, with Shannon and Bantry Bay pinpointed as likely targets.
It outlines potential help to NATO member Britain "bearing in mind that one of the guiding principles of nuclear warfare is the dispersal of forces and facilities so as to present as small a target as possible to the enemy".
In a pact, Ireland could have offered "over 500,000 of its citizens fit for military service" as well as sites for missiles, 38 airfields, six major and 38 minor ports, a potential supply of oil and a staging post for reinforcements from North America".
Siting radar sites along the west and south coasts could have helped detect an imminent nuclear strike on the UK and allow it to be intercepted further out in the Atlantic.
Furthermore, the use of ports in Ireland would have improved the protection of the English Channel and communication with Europe, while boosting supply routes for military reinforcements, food and fuel.
Such help would have allowed the UK to "face East in the confidence that the West flank is more secure", the report states.
It adds that all the benefits of Ireland acting as a British ally would also apply to the rest of western Europe.
Under such a scenario, European governments exiled by a Soviet invasion and "free forces" could have taken refuge in Ireland and continue their struggle. The intelligence services, based at Army headquarters, write that the UK had long been seriously concerned that Ireland's warning and monitoring system was "very unreliable".
The report reveals that UK's nuclear Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO) did not accept there would not have been any direct strikes on Ireland in the event of a war.
"The UKWMO take the view that there is a real immediate danger to them from nuclear bursts either in the Atlantic off our west coast, or on our territory where places like Shannon, Bantry and other useful installations would be taken out as interdiction targets," it states.
The intelligence suggests a deal could have removed the "trivial but still annoying" practice of Britain not admitting to NATO partners that Ireland is in direct contact with two of its nuclear surveillance installations -- in Lisburn and near Bath. Ireland would have exchanged information "as a matter of course in the event of a nuclear attack", it adds.
The report concludes that Ireland's strategic importance to Britain had increased because of the short timescale of a nuclear attack.
Early warning systems on Irish territory "could mean the difference between success and failure of any reaction to or defence against such an attack", it states.